Monday, February 18, 2013

The January Dinner Diary

Almost every night for several weeks now, I've been scribbling a few words in a little notebook at the side of my counter. It is my dinner diary, an idea I read about in a cookbook and discussed in this post last month.

Today, I looked back on my entries to get a big picture view of my family dinner, and I thought I would share it with you. January was not an ordinary month for us. We lost a beloved pet, and due to new jobs, our household routine changed in many ways. Dinner prep was more hasty and less thoughtful than ever last month. These were big changes in January but truly, what month is ordinary? Almost every month, there's travel, visitors, special events and small illnesses that punctuate the days.

Here's what we ate for dinner all of last month. If you spot anything that you'd like a recipe for, feel free to ask in the comments, but you'll see that most of my dinners are no-recipe meals cobbled together with whatever is on hand. They turn out to be one of a kind and honestly, are often the very best food I dish out.

The pictures are just everyday recipes I've posted before, added to bring some color to this post.

Jan 1: (Tuesday, New Year's Day) Jeera rice, sweet potato vaal dal, kobichi wadi

Jan 2: Whole wheat rotini with cauliflower and soy chorizo

Jan 3: Okra sambar and ghee rice

Jan 4: Udon noodles with garlic, pepper, broccoli and Thai mock chicken nuggets

Jan 5: Mushroom lima bean pulao

Jan 6: TJ's masala burger and salad

Jan 7: Burritos with refried beans and salad


Jan 8: Maggi

Jan 9: Khichdi, aloo gobi

Jan 10: Fajitas

Jan 11: Spaghetti

Jan 12: Cauliflower zucchini soup, leftover Thai take-out from lunch

Jan 13 (Sunday): Soup and Grilled cheese party


Jan 14: Brown rice with veggies and tofu

Jan 15: Chana masala, cucumber raita

Jan 16: Broccoli frittata, Tuesday soup, croutons

Jan 17: Ate out

Jan 18: Eggplant lima beans subzi, yogurt rice

Jan 19: Frankie

Jan 20 (Sunday): Idli, dosa, sambar, chutney

Jan 21: Pasta with roasted broccoli and brussels sprouts

Jan 22: Black eyed peas with spinach and eggplant


Jan 23: Broccoli spaghetti

Jan 24: Sweet potato vaal dal with whole wheat buttered toast

Jan 25: Noodles with vegetables

Jan 26: Ragi dosa

Jan 27: Pulao with butternut squash and lima beans

Jan 28: Chickpeas with sweet potato

Jan 29: Egg curry and rice

Jan 30: Vaal khichdi, eggplant kaap

Jan 31: I somehow left out the entry for this one. Too much of a rush to get into February? 

January's menu also reflects the fact that it is winter, the time when I get into a bit of a vegetable rut. There's a lot of sweet potato and broccoli and lima beans here! One change I want to make is to include raw vegetables in some form in almost every meal. A few sticks of carrot or cucumber would be fine as would a more elaborate salad or koshimbir; just something raw to add texture and nutrition.

So, does any of this sound familiar or are your everyday dinners very different from mine?

80 comments:

  1. Wow - your dinner menu looks so delicious! What stands out to me is just sheer variety of quick, clever yet healthy concoctions which I am sure tested divine as any freshly made hot home-made dinner tastes after a full day's work! At our home menus are similar but sadly there is a lot more of leftovers. The good part is none of us really mind eating leftovers so I am in the habit of cooking for two days and refrigerating the second half for next day.

    I also just realized I missed the deadline for swap-overs :( hope you are all having lots of fun sharing something spice and nice. Will be watching with eager oohs and aahs when you post the pics :)

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    1. I'm not opposed to leftovers at all but usually my recipes make enough quantity for 4-5 servings which is perfect for dinner + lunch leftovers. So that means a fresh dinner practically every day.

      We'll have another swap in a couple of months so stay tuned!

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  2. Hi Nupur,
    Thanks so much for sharing your dinner diary. I read about the concept in one of your previous posts and really liked it. I've been trying to keep one too-and it's not only been helpful to know what all we've been eating, but I also felt like giving myself a pat on the back for having made all the variety of foods that I did!
    I've noticed that i tend to start the week with the entire works- chapati, bhaji, rice and dal. I usually try to make at least one green leafy vegetable and one legume( usal) dish each week. Wednesdays are usually a non veg meal- fish/meat.Thursdays, fridays we end up eating leftovers or make some pasta/soup.
    once again, thanks for sharing this idea- it's a really nice one!
    -Shilpa.

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    1. I love your menu planning habits. And assigning one day a week for a certain kind of meal is a good way to make meal planning easier.

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  3. How I wish. I were your BFF next door neighbor girl here.......and I would get to njoy all u r meals.

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  4. Love the dinner diary!! It shows how comforting and homely all your meals are - and eating out only once in the whole month? Kudos to you!!! I've been trying to do the same, maybe March will start in more earnest efforts to meal plan and log my dinners.

    Would love a recipe for the Kobichi Vadi, and Vaal as well. Sounds scrumptious!! :)

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    1. We ate dinner out only one day last month but ate lunch/brunch out a few more times!

      The kobichi wadi was an adaptation (basically, I eyeballed all quantities) from here:
      http://redchillies.us/2007/10/07/spicy-cabbage-cake/

      The sweet potato vaal is from Vaishali:
      http://www.holycowvegan.net/2012/04/sweet-potato-and-vaal-dal-curry.html

      Both recipes are worth trying!

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  5. Nupur,
    I have been following your post for few days now, LOVE IT!
    I am amazed by your enthusiasm and love for all the things you do!
    Could you please elaborate on the pasta recipes, our pasta cooking seems to get a little drab ...
    I am hoping that coz of our same names, the enthusiasm rubs off at my end!

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    1. Hello fellow Nupur :)

      Here are two pasta recipes that we never get tired of:
      http://onehotstove.blogspot.com/2009/07/pasta-salad-i-actually-like.html

      http://onehotstove.blogspot.com/2005/07/scientific-pasta.html

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  6. Hi Nupur, This is a lot of variety!

    Our dinner usually revolves around dosas, rotis, rice-rasam-vegetable, pulao, rava upma -:)

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    1. Well I love all those things for dinner, but we do also like mixing it up with our not-authentic versions of Mexican and Italian and Chinese cuisine.

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  7. Cute post Nupur! :) lot of vaal dal also I think..

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    1. Yep- that's another trait of mine. Going through phases when I use one ingredient/recipe repeatedly :)

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  8. You ate out just once? I've got to learn a lot from you Nupur! I'm so lazy we eat out at least twice a week - it hurts the wallet and the waistline :) My dinners are quite different. The husband doesn't care for pasta/noodles/Mexican/pizza etc. So I normally make fresh rotis and a subzi or rice and dal or filling items like pav bhaji, thalipeeth, tomato omelet, stuffed parathas, misal pav etc

    Can you please post the okra sambar and ghee rice recipe? That basically sounds like the best meal ever.

    Preeti

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    1. This is the dinner diary- these days we tend to eat out at lunch and brunch so the baby can enjoy it more (she's too tired/sleepy in the evenings). The okra sambar is very simple and I'll post a recipe soon. Ghee rice is nothing but freshly steamed rice with homemade ghee :) And yes, i do think it is the best meal ever.

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  9. its a great idea to keep a meal diary... i have been eating leftovers from lunch every day for the last few weeks... will be interesting to see what pattern we follow...

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    1. We do the opposite: our lunches are leftovers from dinner.

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  10. Nice, I like this dinner diary idea. You don't seem to eat out too much. In a month, I'd have a minimum of 5 takeaways or eat-outs. I am hoping to reduce that though. And your frankie, is it the mumbai type ? Would like to know the spices / masala you used for the frankie.

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    1. We eat out about once a week, usually at lunch/brunch these days. We love eating out- though last month was a bit crazy and we found it easier to just fix a quick something at home. The frankie is the Mumbai style wrap, yes, and my spice of choice there is plenty of chaat masala!

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  11. Hi Nupur,
    Loved ur dinner menus for January. Should try out some of these combinations.. Our dinner menu are standard bcos my family likes to get the typical Maharashtrian meal of varan bhat,bhaji ani poli :))
    Can you share the recipe of ragi dosa and Broccoli frittata.....

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    1. I love that meal too :) perhaps not everyday though, since I have a choice. Ragi dosa is like rava dosa but with the addition of ragi flour. I make a mix of buttermilk/water and ragi flour (largest proportion is of this flour), rice flour, sooji, salt, cilantro, onion, jeera and make instant dosas. Broccoli frittata is just like this recipe but with broccoli florets instead of potato: http://onehotstove.blogspot.com/2005/03/eomeote5-pateta-par-eeda.html

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  12. I am so impressed with your dinner diary, it is full of so many easy tasty and quick menu options that I am convinced that I can do this too! Next time I am out of ideas or feel too tired to make dinner I will look at this post and I am sure it will help me find something I can make that evening. I am going to start keeping a dinner diary starting today itself. Hopefully keeping a diary will control our cravings for eating out. It's a great idea to look back at the end of the month and share it. It will help so many of us in so many ways. Thanks Nupur! You are the best!

    - Priti

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    1. Oh absolutely everyone can throw together a quick dinner! I'd love to see your dinner diary too :)

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  13. Though we love okra I rarely make okra sambhar though I do like okra sambhar. Do you roast the okra before making the sambhar? I roast them in a bit of oil before making sambhar that seems to help with the slime which is what I am afraid of.

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    1. I do pan fry the okra really well before adding salt and cooked mashed dal. I won't lie- there's a bit of a sticky texture to this sambar but not what I would call unpleasantly slimy AT ALL. I'll post a recipe soon (I use frozen okra!!)

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  14. That is such a delicious spread Nupur. I love that you almost don't have much repetition in a month! That is so amazing. I am going to steal some ideas from here. I will have to start with a diary too. I don't make much Mexican inspired dishes, I have to start that soon. Currently we have a relative living with us for couple of weeks, he prefers Indian and hates pasta. So I have been making only Indian dishes

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    1. It's just a lot of mix and match, Shilpa. We love our Mexican inspired dinners. Pretty close to eating roti and bean subzi but with enough of a twist that it feels different! Who knows, your relative may even be willing to try it :)

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  15. Does Lila eat all of that?

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  16. Seriously?? You ate out once? From your list of St. Louis restaurant reccomendations, I thought you ate out more :) Our dinners look similar to yours except there is less Mexican and more parathas - my daughter is at an age where she wants to eat on her own but does not have the patience to sit through a meal of rice and curry, so parathas/ dosas work for me. AND I sneak in a ginormous amount of veges :) I usually make a largish quantity of dough/ batter over the weekend and store in different containers. Get 1 container out as needed and make parathas or sprinkle veges on top and make uttappam.
    -Ashwini

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    1. Well, we did eat out for lunch (which is not recorded here because this is just dinner) but the fact is we ate out a lot more in St. Louis, living as we did a block away from lots of good restaurants. Here we have to drive out to eat, so throwing together a meal at home feels infinitely easier. I almost never make parathas- somehow I'm terrible at rolling them out.

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  17. Our dinners tend to be more South Indian.(Sambhar, rasam, sabji, idli, dosa and upma). We want to avoid rice (border-line diabetic)and so we go more for rotis, broken wheat and qinoa.

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    1. They sound like delicious meals, Anu.

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  18. Wow Nupur, everything sounds so delicious. I used to love to cook fresh dinners but now, being pregnant for the first time and in my first trimester, I barely have energy to do anything. It falls on my poor husband to cobble together meals. Hopefully this passes!

    Could you please let us know how you make your frankies? My husband loves them and I would love to try to make them for him when I start getting more energy.

    Thanks,
    Priti

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    1. Priti- congratulations, and hang in there. Most women feel much more energetic and happy once the first trimester is through. Here's my frankie recipe (easy enough for your husband to fix for himself and you!!):
      http://onehotstove.blogspot.com/2005/10/eomeote-11-seventies-song-lyrics.html

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  19. I Love Vaal Dal ! Post that recipe of Sweet Potato Vaal Dal Sometime... sounds interesting ! Dinner Menu looks great ! Hope Lila is doing good - Love to her !

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    1. Lila's doing well, thanks for asking :) The sweet potato vaal is from Vaishali (wonderful recipe, do try it):
      http://www.holycowvegan.net/2012/04/sweet-potato-and-vaal-dal-curry.html

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  20. maggi sounds really familiar! we had it yesterday for dinner when i got a sudden craving for it! :)
    One admirable thing is you ate out just once for dinner. We really need to improve on that..Even during the good-eating-weeks we tend to eat out 1-2 times/week for dinner, even if it just idli or dosa or soups. :(

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    1. I do crave Maggi every now and then too, but the one you see on this list was that sad evening when our dog had died and I had to get something into our tummies even though we did not feel like eating.

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    2. yes sometimes, making maggi takes u to ur good old school days, when it was a luxury

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  21. Nupur thank you so much. You are such an inspiration. I will save this post and keep coming back to it. Maybe someday cooking at night won't be such a dreaded task/chore.

    I will try and keep a dinner diary as well.

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    1. Oh Manali- cooking never has to be a dreaded chore. I understand that not everyone has an inherent love for cooking, but I hope that you can find some exciting new (easy!) recipes to try, and maybe treat dinner-making as quality family time.

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  22. This sounds amazing...wow you didnt eat out more than once...i need to work on eating out less ..how did u make brocolli spagetti and chana with sweet potato. I need to keep a dinner diary too maybe will help to look over when i dont know what to make for dinner .
    roshni

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    1. Broccoli spaghetti is just sauteed broccoli tossed with cooked spaghetti and cheese (sometimes I add white sauce instead of cheese). The chana again is regular chana with the addition of sweet potato (I add cubes of sweet potato after frying the onions). Both are simple meals but veyr tasty.

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  23. My last ten days of dinners ;-)

    1. Linguini, Chicken Meatballs, Pesto
    2. Vaangi Bhaji, Gakar w cornmeal
    3. Baked Potatoes
    4. Squash + Potato+Tomato bhaji, polya
    5. B uckwheat + Cannelini Beans in Pomodoro sauce
    6. Leftovers
    7. Panda Express Takeout
    8. Batata Paratha + dahi
    9. Sabudana Khichadi + dahi
    10. Blackeyed peas usal + polya

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    1. Oh my that's a lot of tasty meals- you're making me crave parathas now. Thanks so much for sharing your list!

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  24. I read your post about dinner diary and I started to jot down our dinners too. It's really interesting to see the pattern on how dinners repeat every week. It also helps if I look at the diary before making dinner - for old ideas or to come up with new ones. Thanks for the idea of keeping the diary. It definitely has been really helpful.
    Your menu doesn't have too many repetitions. Home cooked khichdi is still better than going out for something fancy :-)

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    1. How fun that you're keeping a dinner diary too! Well, where we live now, one has to drive out to get to a restaurant so yes, putting a khichdi into the pressure cooker takes much less work.

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  25. Your dinner dairy is very inspiring. Simple, flavorful healthy dishes! I am going to maintain one too. Lets see how that works. But we eat out atleast twice a week which I would like to reduce.

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    1. I'd love to see what your dinner diary looks like! Personally, I really enjoy eating out once a week- but yes, I want to do it as a special event, not go out for just anything because we're not inspired to cook.

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  26. Hi Nupur,

    Love your blog both cooking and books suggestions. Keep up the good work! Your menu looks interesting, gives me ideas what to cook. For me planning the menu is tougher than cooking:) When I ask my kids the only answer I get is poori and hubby is ready for anything. Now I can use your guidelines. In our house its always rotis for dinner.

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    1. It is the same with me- once I decide on the menu, making it is a piece of cake. It is the decisions that feel more exhausting.

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  27. Love how simple, nutritious and varied your meals are and that you don't stick to Indian cuisine. I cook en masse during the weekend- 1 daal, 1-2 veggies, 1 non veg item. We rotate mon- thurs. fri we have appetizers. Sat/ sun something special.
    I wish I could eat fresh everyday and that my husband would consider eating something apart from rice for dinner. I am also a raita addict and put my salad into it - something diff every day.
    The baby eats what we eat plus half- one avocado a day. When I stop commuting ( 3 hrs a day!) I will try to do things differently- but for now this works for us.
    Arpita

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    1. OMG your commute is 3 hours a day- that's so hard. I think you need to give yourself a huge pat on the back! Eating a different raita everyday sounds fantastic.

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  28. Nupur,

    This is an amazing spread. Thanks for sharing your diary. I love the idea of stuffing beans and veggies in flour tortillas. I see the menu loaded with vegetables, beans, greens yet have a easy, hassle free demeanour.

    We eat out rarely and more often than not cook something, simple and easy at home. There are days when comprehensive meals take the front seat if I have the energy (e.g weekends, holidays) and on daily basis Soups, Salads, Stews, Idli-Sambhar, Sandwich, Egg Roll, Upma, Dosa, Rice based tiffin items take the lead. I've also realised its better to quick-cook easy dishes at home than head out and eat something less nutritious for the sake of it.

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    1. Yes, it is pretty much the same few ingredients (beans, veggies) packaged in a few different ways. Your daily meals sound fantastic! I agree that putting together a quick meal is less work than going out to eat, especially with a reasonably well stocked pantry.

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  29. My weekly Menu:-
    Monday :- whole dish dal/chaval/roti/subji
    Tuesday:- mexican/chinese(enchiala,quesdilla,fried rice,veggies in garlic sauce)
    Wednesday:- subji/roti/soup or legumes/roti/soup, kadhi/rotla
    Thursday:- usal/pasta/idli sambhar/pavbhaji
    Friday:- chole,chana masala,mix veg paratha,dal fry

    So basically I make roti/paratha/bhakhari mostly for 3 days of week and rest of the days, it is one pot meal kind of things!

    I prepare my weekly menu on friday afternoon and grocery shopping is done on friday evening.

    Sunday evening I do all the pre-prep. for my weekdays dinner. Like boil dal/legumes, cut and boil veggies, make sauces etc.

    I try to make one leafy veg atleast once a week and one legume like chana/mung/vatana etc atleast once a week. Friday is allocated for some elaborate kind of cooking like pubjabi subji or to try any new recipe!

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    1. Thanks for sharing this- there are some many good tips here on weekly meal planning. Not to mention that everything sounds delicious!

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  30. How you make even the most mundane activities so exciting is amazing...who would have thought of maintaining a dinner diary!! Def worth a shot - makes it easier to see what worked and didn't. I love your recipies...so simple but yet so delcicious...iv tried a few and have never been disappointed and bask in my hubbys compliments...will try something this weekend too...and OMG a huge pat on the back for eating out once!! Need to learn lots form you :)

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    1. The dinner diary is an idea I got from a cookbook I read last month. I'm glad some of the recipes on this blog have been working for you!!

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  31. The other day On KATIE COURIC show on ABC she mentioned that an average American eats out 5 times a week . Isn't that number really very high? For most of us it will really sound big. Making easy dinners /lunches can be worth the effort once the family is at the dining table . Quick dinners can be made in less than 30 minutes . Just allot half an hour for the task. You sure are a very good time manager Nupur.
    Like it!
    Shilpa Aralikar

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    1. Hi Shilpa, yes, eating out 5 times a week wouldn't be my choice but then so many people have never learned to cook basic meals. I think more and more people are starting to enjoy simple home cooking though so the trend is turning in the right direction.

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  32. Hi nupur

    Really wonderful idea. I am an avid follower can quote from your blog :) some of the best things I liked- if you have a hobby and work on it just a little bit everyday over the years it can build into a large piece of work.

    Cooking is not a hobby it is a life skill. Your blog inspires me to cook. I feel like doing a Julia child kind of thing. Cook 1 item daily from nupurs blog :) how does that sound?

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    1. I couldn't agree more that cooking basic meals is a life skill, Jui. I'd be pretty thrilled if you cooked lots of recipes from this blog! Especially if you told me what worked and what did not. Or expand your project and cook from different blogs- there are SO many wonderful blogs out there!

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  33. gujarati dal, bhat capsicum curry rotali
    home made pizza
    methi shak,rotali, mx vegsoup
    khichadi
    chana paratha

    my menu for dinners for coming week

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    1. Sounds good to me! Thank you for sharing your menu.

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  34. I forgot to mention few things.
    I will boil dal,chole and veggies for soup, also chop the capsicum and fenugrek/methi on sunday.

    Make pizza dough before leaving for job....it's preety easy. come back chop veggies, spread store bought pizza sauce(I have all purpose tomato sauce in my freezer in ziplock bags)....and pizza is ready in no time

    for rest of the days just make curry with chopped veggies and have it with either roti/rice....

    Nupur I would love to know your weekly menu as well.
    Hope my suggestions will be useful for other readers as well.

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    1. Thanks for the tips- it is a great idea to do vegetable prep on the weekend if that helps to make quick weekday meals.

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  35. hi Nupur,
    Kudos to you for maintaining your menu for a whole month :-)
    Our menus are a bit different. Over the weekend, I make one dal and one leafy veggie every week. In addition to that, I also make few curries, and a couple stir fries as well- all colored bell pepper, zucchini, black beans stir fry and broccoli, carrot stir fry. I have couple seasonings and I use them alternately. During the week, it is very simple. we just make rice and eat with dal or make chapathi and eat with curry, or just cook pasta and eat with stir fried veggies, or make chipotle bowl with brown rice and veggies or make tacos and load with more veggies and cheese etc. The options are endless...we've gone without eating out for over 8 months last year and we didn't miss eating out :-) Since we all gym very regularly, lots of protein and veggies have become a part of our meal :-)
    we rarely eat out over the past year; not that we are averse to it; we do go once in a while but our home made meals are surely more healthy and fresh and we all have started to love them better than eating out !!!! Seems unreal but true...

    Thanks for the post,
    Mina

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    1. Thanks for sharing your strategy, I think it is a great idea to make vegetable-bean stir fries that can then be dressed in several different ways.

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  36. u mentioned chana masala cucumber raita,thats all ,no carbs to go along,i mean roti/ rice

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  37. Hey Nupur,
    Your diary has inspired me to start keeping a dinner dairy for March. I just got back from a 4 week stay in India. Inspired by my mom and MIL who cook daily, I have decided I am going to try it out too. I was also thinking of this idea of maybe doing a blog linky party. I think this would be a great way to get inspiration from other households especially if we ar ein a rut for what to make for dinner? What do you think?

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    1. A blog linky party with menu ideas sounds like a great idea. If you host one, I'll try my best to participate!

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    2. Great. As we are already rolling into March, maybe I will start one for mid March or April. Yay!

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  38. I look at your blog and wish I can be so organized. love all your recipes

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  39. That is one super list Nupur. I tried to keep a diary inspired by you but lost the heat mid way as I had travel out of station for couple of weeks. Have to try it again :-).

    Hugs,
    Siri

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  40. ..and just the comment section of this post has so many great ideas for everyday meals. Nupur, I hope you share your dinner diary in coming months as well! :-)

    Siri

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  41. This is a superb idea! Love it Nupur tai!

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    1. Hi Vini! The idea is from a cookbook and it has been to see what we eat on a daily basis. Are you and Y doing much cooking in your newly feathered nest?

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